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Why Do You Collect Mint/NOS Gear?


Jake the Collector

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There is a difference between “mint” and “unused.” The former can be used but well taken care of. The latter can be damaged in storage or mistreated and roughed up. I tend to buy what I call “used but not abused” items, but I won’t turn down a mint example if it’s got a reasonable price. My helmets range from “mint” to “well-worn” with most in the “used but not abused” category. Some have names in them and a couple of those are “mint” as we tend to know it. I think that if you collect US militaria you look for the best example that you can afford as most of us are not in the business of stocking a museum, which I think requires a whole different mindset. People also undergo an evolution in collecting. When starting out you don’t know the markets and where to look, and often buy items in less than good condition. As you learn the ropes, acquire experience, read books (finally), and do the research you learn what items are worth and develop a liking for specific pieces and connections to military actions, units, and people. This takes time, so it is interesting to know what newcomers to the hobby think as well as those who have collecting for many years.

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Longbranch

Every militaria collector knows that "mint condition", "pristine", and "un-issued" items are by far the most desirable.

 

First of all, this statement is completely false. In fact, in most circumstances I'd bet that "salty" field-used militaria with rock-solid provenance to a vet that used these items in a famous battle would be extremely desirable to collectors (and likely have a higher monetary value).

 

Still, as you mentioned, there IS a very strong market for many types of like-new field gear, weapons, knives, etc. Some collectors like having things in the best condition possible, looking just like they did when made far into the distant past. In a way, it's almost like taking a trip back in time when holding these objects in your hand. They also document what these items looked like, how the various fabrics and finishes appeared, etc. As others mentioned, they also document the evolution of military gear.

 

Nonetheless, it seems that other collectors don't find this desirable at all. They don't want pristine examples of objects that would have been used in the wars of the past, they want the objects THAT WERE ACTUALLY USED IN THESE CONFLICTS.

 

It's great to have both types of collectors, and some collectors dabble in both areas. Even better, these different types of collectors complement each other very well. The "mint" collectors do a great job of documenting military-related items, and the "been there done that" collectors do a great job of putting these items into their historical context.

 

I can certainly appreciate the desire for Mint/NOS stuff. I get a huge kick from seeing displays of field gear from WW1, WW2, Vietnam, etc. showing a wide selection of mint condition gear in all the different variations. Very cool!

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RustyCanteen

 

Used items don't tell you ANY story other than someone wore it out at some point and you'll never know who did it and when.

 

Seems to me that people asking why a collector would want the best condition example of an item they're wanting is just looking to justify their beat up and worn out items that they didn't want to spend a little more to get something in great condition.

 

 

Lee, you're right. I can't believe museums are so 'cheap' that they think they can snooker us into thinking used junk has history. Like you said, no telling when this was done or anything. http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/212401-an-interesting-battle-damaged-helmet/

 

Does this mean the museums will start dumping those ratty used 'artifacts' such as Ernie Pyle's typewriter for a nice 'as-new from factory' model? Sounds cool, can't wait to see what hits the curb at the Smithsonian!

 

 

I am joking of course, but the moral of the story is don't make broad assertions about things. Not every piece of used gear has history, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater by suggesting that none of the used stuff has history at all. Or that people who collect the used stuff are cheap.

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Jake the Collector

 

First of all, this statement is completely false. In fact, in most circumstances I'd bet that "salty" field-used militaria with rock-solid provenance to a vet that used these items in a famous battle would be extremely desirable to collectors (and likely have a higher monetary value).

 

Still, as you mentioned, there IS a very strong market for many types of like-new field gear, weapons, knives, etc. Some collectors like having things in the best condition possible, looking just like they did when made far into the distant past. In a way, it's almost like taking a trip back in time when holding these objects in your hand. They also document what these items looked like, how the various fabrics and finishes appeared, etc. As others mentioned, they also document the evolution of military gear.

 

Nonetheless, it seems that other collectors don't find this desirable at all. They don't want pristine examples of objects that would have been used in the wars of the past, they want the objects THAT WERE ACTUALLY USED IN THESE CONFLICTS.

 

It's great to have both types of collectors, and some collectors dabble in both areas. Even better, these different types of collectors complement each other very well. The "mint" collectors do a great job of documenting military-related items, and the "been there done that" collectors do a great job of putting these items into their historical context.

 

I can certainly appreciate the desire for Mint/NOS stuff. I get a huge kick from seeing displays of field gear from WW1, WW2, Vietnam, etc. showing a wide selection of mint condition gear in all the different variations. Very cool!

Yes, perhaps I was mistaken in stating "by far". But how often do you see a salty piece "with rock-solid provenance to a vet that used these items in a famous battle"? Salty items like those are the exception, and, yes, I agree that almost any collector would prefer something like that over a like-new item. But when I began the topic I was referring to your average used equipment vs. minty stuff, not the exceptionally rare pieces identified to a famous battle and straight out of the vet's home. I think in this sense, my statement rings at least partially true- many collectors (NOT all, I can't stress that enough) would prefer a like-new item over the average worn-out piece. Nevertheless, I still find these items more desirable. I know many will disagree (as I have already seen), but, in my opinion, an item that's clearly been used is more closely connected to the period, containing within its faded fabric and thread more history and personality. Of course, as willysmb44 said, much of that wear and tear could be attributed to some kids playing around in the woods. I find that mystery, though, that wondering as I hold the item in my hand, to be one of the most fun aspects of collecting, for it sparks my imagination and makes me think, "What if this wasn't beat up by boy scouts? What if this received its wear and tear at the hands of a Marine or a soldier at a place like Normandy or Bastogne or Tarawa?" To me, this uncertainty and, therefore, unlimited possibility an item can hold is fascinating.

I do like your mentioning of how the two different types of collectors (mint vs. "been there") complement each other well, both preserving history in their own unique way. I completely agree with that.

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RustyCanteen

Fair points and interesting discussion going on here. There are certainly things in favor (and against) both issued and unissued conditions depending on your collecting goals.

 

Some observations to add/consider too:

 

Sometimes an item is so rare/of such limited production/almost non-extant that the collector of unissued items may have to decide whether to include a used example in their collection. I've also known collectors that would rather continue looking for an item that matches the desired condition they want instead of buying the something that doesn't, no matter how much they need it to fill a hole in their collection. I think the latter people enjoyed the challenge of trying to find the nearly impossible.

 

The militaria hobby doesn't really have much of a unified 'grading' or condition scale. A lot of unissued (truly never used or issued) stuff sat around for a long time before becoming collectible. In that time (45-70 years) it was either sitting in boxes, crates, indoors, outdoors, etc. and not all of it is equal in terms of condition, even if it is unused. Items that were never issued can still have been damaged through time and the elements, and sometimes the damage (while cosmetic, like 'shelf-wear') can still be unsightly to someone trying to assemble a collection of items in truly unused condition. Unissued doesn't always equate to what someone might define as 'mint'.

 

 

In the end, much of it is personal preference, and there is nothing wrong with that. :)

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Rakkasan187

RC,

 

You brought up a good point about museums and this is ONLY from my perspective and what happens at the museum I work at:

 

First here is your comment:

 

"Does this mean the museums will start dumping those ratty used 'artifacts' such as Ernie Pyle's typewriter for a nice 'as-new from factory' model? Sounds cool, can't wait to see what hits the curb at the Smithsonian!"

 

My reply: We strive to put on exhibit as much authentic artifacts as deemed possible and in most cases when we have enough of the same artifact to rotate on a periodic basis so t he artifact on exhibit can come off and "breathe" again. We have to be very careful with textiles for example from the Spanish American War back to the revolution and these items must be rotated, cleaned, preserved and stored again. In the event that we do not have another original to put on exhibit we will put a replica. As we get more into the current conflicts starting with WW1 and moving forward we have a very large stock of these items and uniforms where we can afford to put originals out and rotate exhibits every 6 months or so.

 

We have a philosophy at our facility that people want to see original items and when all possible we provide the public with original artifacts. When it is not possible we strive very hard to ensure the reproductions we put in place are as close to the original as possible. We do not ever want to deceive the public and when appropriate we mention that the artifact in question is a reproduction and that the original is in storage for rehabilitation and reconservation/preservation. We also will provide the public access to all our archives so that upon request they can see the items not currently on display and they will be able to see how we treat the artifacts that in many cases were donated by family members. They have entrusted us with their families artifacts and we have an obligation to ensure they are being well taken care of and preserved.

 

We also have a large support chain through the Center of Military History. If we need and artifact for an exhibit and we don't have one, we can request that CMH puts out this information and museums that have extras of said artifact can send us on temporary or permanent loan said items for us to exhibit.

 

We are in the process now of having a Benet Merci Machine Gun transferred to us for use in our Columbus New Mexico/Pancho Villa Raid/ Punitive expedition exhibit. Will it be one of the Machine guns used in Columbus? Most likely not but it will be a representation of what weapon system was on the ground during the raid and the public will get to see a viable artifact for that era.

 

A lot of museums will have artifacts that they will never display, my museum for example is one of them. We will be turning into CMH a lot of our excess items so they may be redistributed to other facilities that may be able to use them. We have a very specific storyline that we tell and if the artifact does not help support our storyline, then there is a chanced it will not be put on exhibit. For example We have a WW2 era Dog Gas mask that we will never use so we will be turning it in and having it deaccessioned from our records. The Chemical Museum has several so they will not be able to use the one we have, as it is also in very poor shape..

 

If we were to have an original Ernie Pyle typewriter, then more than likely we would retain for the historical context but again it would be difficult for us to display since it is not specifically NCO history, but on the other hand if we were to do an exhibit on NCO correspondents and artists such as SGT George Baker (Sad Sack) and SGT Bill Mauldin (Willie and Joe) then we could also incorporate Ernie Pyle's Legacy as a reporter who told GI stories and wrote books as well and then we could justify putting the typewriter on exhibit to show how reporters were keeping the troops and families back home informed of the war news...

 

Leigh

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RustyCanteen

Hello Leigh,

 

 

I was jokingly replying to Lee about his contention that used items have no history, by mentioning examples of used items that do have a history; vs. 'upgrading' the used items to unused counterparts sans the history of their worn and battered brethren. That said, you bring up many very good points and I am glad to read them!

 

When I go into a museum, I'm as interested in seeing the actual artifacts as much as the displays/mock-ups since they are often as close as we can get to going back to a particular place or moment in time. I'm reminded of one display particularly, where the majority of the original items do not exist (and the ones that do, are no longer in their 'as-new' original state); in that case I greatly enjoyed the reconstruction since it offered the viewer the opportunity to see something that is just gone from existence. If not for the money and time put into the replica by the owners of the exhibit, it would have been harder to envision the remaining pieces as they originally were. I go to see the items and learn about them, so original or replica, it all serves the same purpose.

 

I know some will have a different take on replicas in museums, but they do not bother me as a member of the viewing public provided they are faithful and accurate representations of the originals. Some of that opinion could be from the knowledge and perspective of a collector too, such as the discussion of using a replica vs. an original uniform or equipment. For example, leather militaria; often the 'preservatives' are enough to give a uniform collector cold sweats with concerns of staining or worse. Even the idea of putting a 'dry' leather belt or strap against an original uniform seems risky in terms of potential damage to the uniform; not to mention the strain on the old leather. For that reason I am actually glad to see replica uniforms and accouterments used in displays focused on 19th Century militaria. I can see why unissued (and hopefully clean) items would be much preferred over used items. Some readers may wonder what you are talking about when you discuss used items being dirty (earlier in the thread I think); it is amazing how much dirt and dust can blend into (and hide) something like a uniform or piece of web equipment. That of course would be a concern because it could attract insects or even react adversely in the wrong conditions (helping an item mold or mildew). So right there, I can see how an otherwise clean looking piece of equipment could actually be something which a museum would be concerned about.

 

The balance between displaying, and preserving the artifacts is one which is of course vitally important. I commend the 'unsung' heroes of the museum field for all their hard work which is ironically hidden in plain sight, but which is nevertheless almost invisible to the public. I'm sure many of us have gone to a museum with the naive thought that it is just a matter of moving things into and out of display cases; like the iceberg that sank the Titanic, that is only the 'tip' the public sees, and not the 90% of the work that is behind the displays. As a whole, collectors tend to be a little too hard on museums, but that is another topic.

 

RC

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This is an excellent question. For me, I collect both types of gear (used if it comes from the vet or if I just like the salty look) and pristine for the various displays I have put together. One of the displays focuses on a newly enlisted GI during World War II. For the display I use an army bed and lay the gear out for inspection. In this case, I focused on acquiring mint items as a newly enlisted GI most likely would not have been issued extremely distressed, salty or worn out gear. For me, when collecting field gear, I don't seem to favor one over the other...it just depends on what is appropriate for the display I'm currently creating. I should also add that sometimes it merely depends on if the item "speaks" to me.

Steve

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Rakkasan187

Excellent Dicussion everyone..

 

I am very happy to contribute from a museum perspective on this matter..

 

Preservation of history is the goal of many on here, professional and non-professional alike..

 

It is great to hear so many different ways that collectors preserve and collect our military history..

 

Well done everyone... Well Done..

 

Leigh

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Wonderful discussion.

I want to toss in my 2 cents as I have both minty/NOS and well used.

 

Most, if not all of my minty/NOS is for my gas collection. As someone mentioned earlier, I like the object itself when it comes to masks and accessories. Gas accessories in my opinion need to be minty. Take test kits for example, if it's used, most of the time it's missing packets or bottles or "chemicals" in the bottles. It's no fun, it's a collector car without wheels...boring. So that portion of my collecting hobby I try for minty...and as I look around my office I currently count 10 NOS gas masks still in the original box or can. I hope they are in there :dry:

 

My well used stuff has a story; my 503rd items. Most everything I have related to the 503rd WWII is from an actual trooper with a story. I collect as much data as I can about that vet and add it to the collection as well.

I have uniforms, photos, maps, letters, bring backs and orders etc. most of which have seen better days. BUT...they have been there and done that. They have a story and a face to go with it. I shy away from items that are 503rd related and have no name....it's not that interesting...it's just an item....like an original 503rd cat patch. With no vet to put with the patch, it's just an item...and an overpriced one at that. While I do have some items that have no vet story or name, the item it'self is unique for 503rd history. So I do make acceptations :D

 

Just my thoughts.

Dan

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I like to collect both. Vietnam used helmets are my main focus, as well as groupings. And patched jungles jackets.

 

But I also want a NOS, unissued or very clean example of everything as well. Helmets, parts, field gear, uniform.

 

I think unissued stuff is great for reference, it photos nicely, it's nice to have items with clear and nice markings, no rust stains, no tears, heavy fading.

 

When I put together helmets, field gear sets and mannequin displays I use clean nice gear, it displays great.

 

When looking for a peice of field gear I tend to take a clean example over a used one. We'd like to believe that the gear we have is used and beat up because it was in some type of combat and it looks the part, but unless it's coming out of a grouping there's no telling where and how it got worn like, I also don't like damaged field gear, and I am not a fan of rust.

 

I do like rusty spoons however, but I'll spare you all the heavy breathing.

 

J

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Back in the day, any web gear found in heaps in a bin at a Army-Navy store located outside the gates of an Army post, you knew was GI used, fatiques, head and foot gear too, seen that in Killeen Tex and Fairbanks AK in 80-82, ah those were the days.

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Screamingeagles101

I prefer the salty combat lid.

 

That have more character.

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Philipp Baughman

For my part the question of mint or used and abused is answered by what I can get and what I can afford... not what I want.

 

I have a wide variety from like new items up to torn stuff. When putting up a display mannequin I always try to mix them in like they could have been worn. For example badly used M1942 First Aid Pouch with a newer looking Jungle First Aid Pouch. In my opinion thats the way it would have looked like because issuing of complete equipment sets was rather uncommon from what I read in books (except before and after operations). It depends a lot on the condition of the first items I start the display with.

 

Another point as mentioned at first is money... I live in Germany and I guess most of you know about shipping cost and customs. For those who don't know how it is in Germany, just one example:

A few months ago I bought a 2nd pattern USMC canteen cover with canteen in it. It's used and abused with holes in it and went on eBay USA for under 30 USD. Now there came around 20 USD shipping and around 10 USD for customs (shipping via global shipping program). That makes 60 USD for a item my wife would consider junk condition. As for my part I love it and in Germany it would for sure have a price tag around 100...

But you can get a lucky deal as well... USMC map case in OD7 with map grid insert for under 50 USD found here in Germany in mint condition...

 

I am always happy to get items cheap (but still I'm spending all the money I can) and regarding USMC stuff I learned to like the abused look quite a lot over the years while with Army stuff I prefer moderate wear up to good condition. But generally I would take all offered before it hits the garbage can and in most cases I even pay for rescuing a thing.

 

Groupings and items with provenance are even harder to get over here than WWII USMC stuff and in most cases are overpriced or there are bidding wars going on.

 

BTW the most asked question I encounter in Germany is not mint or used but why I collect US at all. But that is quite another story...

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I am enjoying this thread. I collect whatever trips my trigger. While new gear is pretty cool for a display I do enjoy getting something that is used and has a story with it. The biggest issue I see with used gear is that we can't be sure just how much wear is from its time in the service or the many years after that the kids, grandkids and all their friends gave it. An example I picked up a T-handle shovel at a garage sale for the prickly sum of three dollars. The vet served with the 3rd Infantry Div. but most of the wear came from the shovels life as a garden tool.

 

Just my 2 cents

Bob

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The used piece is part of the story of the soldier who wore it. It is an experience.

The mint piece is part of the story of the helmet. It is the object.

They can both be appreciated as different facets of the same thing.

 

I like named pieces, but I also like mint pieces because I like helmets - as objects. Also, as a caretaker, mint pieces are free from the oils and grime and rust that will more quickly degrade used pieces in the future. For some reason that's important to me.

I totally agree with you.

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When I collected WW2, I liked to have both mint and used items. Most of my webbing collection items were in double.

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phantomfixer

as a collector, I buy it when I see it.. in any condition....a mint example is a nice specimen to have, to see touch and feel how an item looked 70 years ago, when new....

and at times used gear, items can tell a story if purchased from the vet...otherwise the "patina" could be from a 8 year old kid and their backyard...hard to prove either way...

 

from the museum's perspective, mint is nice...however, vet named is preferred, and actually sought after, to help tell the story about Airlift and Dover's past mission...a new flight jacket says nothing about the mission, other than to describe what was worn....

 

A named salty, sweat stained, grease stained B-15 or CWU-45 shows the rough life of a flying crew chief, load master, flight engineer, and pilot/navigators...

personally I like the vet purchased flight gear that I find around Dover AFB...grease stains and all

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Jake the Collector

Wow, I had no idea this thread would take off like it has. I've thoroughly enjoyed reading all the different perspectives and insights and seeing each collector's unique "taste" and "style." Very interesting discussion going on. Thank you to everyone who has provided their opinion already, and keep up the comments.

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Wharfmaster

Back in the 1950-60s, nearly every town had a war surplus store, selling almost every type of WW1 and WW2 field gear in new unused condition. Tons of it was available at pennies on the dollar.

Vast quantities of good quality usable stuff for cheap, few people purchased civilian camping gear until the military stuff was gone. WW2 vets. also purchased lots of it after the war.

 

The salty field gear people now collect was probably soiled on hunting, fishing and camping trips in the 1960s rather than the battlefield.

 

 

Wharf

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Back in the 1950-60s, nearly every town had a war surplus store, selling almost every type of WW1 and WW2 field gear in new unused condition. Tons of it was available at pennies on the dollar.

Vast quantities of good quality usable stuff for cheap, few people purchased civilian camping gear until the military stuff was gone. WW2 vets. also purchased lots of it after the war.

 

The salty field gear people now collect was probably soiled on hunting, fishing and camping trips in the 1960s rather than the battlefield.

 

 

Wharf

 

Hello

 

I totally agree with you. This statement is also right overseas. I live in France. Just because you find a salty M-41 jacket at a garage sale does not mean it was left by a GI who forgot it in the farm in 1944.

 

I know a lot of famers who used US ww2 surplus until the 80's. When I see auctions on ebay entitled "combat use or field use" it makes me smile because you have more chance it was used in a corn field rather than in combat field. This is just a nice story to sell better.

When you think about it, what's the point of bringing back salty equipment for a GI ? It does not mean it did not exists but when your pants are worn out and you have plenty available it is pretty rare to keep the salty one.

 

Just my 2 cents

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Hello

 

I totally agree with you. This statement is also right overseas. I live in France. Just because you find a salty M-41 jacket at a garage sale does not mean it was left by a GI who forgot it in the farm in 1944.

 

I know a lot of famers who used US ww2 surplus until the 80's. When I see auctions on ebay entitled "combat use or field use" it makes me smile because you have more chance it was used in a corn field rather than in combat field. This is just a nice story to sell better.

When you think about it, what's the point of bringing back salty equipment for a GI ? It does not mean it did not exists but when your pants are worn out and you have plenty available it is pretty rare to keep the salty one.

 

Just my 2 cents

Absolutely..

any gear that could be used, was.

I remember a WW2 blade at my Grandparents' house as a child, (can't remember exactly which type of knife, and it was so rusty I'm not sure I could tell), that they used to dig weeds from the garden. It had no more value to them than any other tool in the garage. I'm sure it was the same with any gear. Boots bought home were worn, not saved in the closet!

 

That's why it can be so hard to find something like a mint set of USN boondockers.

-Brian

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willysmb44

The salty field gear people now collect was probably soiled on hunting, fishing and camping trips in the 1960s rather than the battlefield.

 

Funny, I made the exact same comment earlier and everyone jumped on me for it...

 

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willysmb44

 

I would hope that it was just timing on the part of who read the post after you did and not personal. I too would agree that most of the wear is from post military use but it is nice when you get an item from the vets attic. I am sorry you got hammered a bit from your post sometimes folks get a bit passionate about the hobby. That is what i chalk it up to. I must say though I sometimes enjoy the banter between folks and just keep reading and laughing inside until the thread is closed down.

Bob

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